Case Study

Amsterdam Area Residents Find the Best Place to Live with the TravelTime API

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The growth of urban populations poses several challenges for local governments. High demand can lead to high competition in residential areas and can increase costs for renting and purchasing property.

Helping residents find where to live

Whilst many people know of Amsterdam’s canals and museums, they’re often unfamiliar with the wider Amsterdam region before they move.  

To support and educate international newcomers, the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area has built an interactive map tool using the TravelTime API. The tool, called MapItOut, helps residents visualise the best areas to live, based on their travel preferences.

Amsterdam Area's MapItOut tool
‍The MapItOut interactive map uses the TravelTime API to show residents where they can live based on their travel preferences

“We created the MapItOut tool to help new residents select the best area that fits their lifestyle based on commute time - whether that means living in a home outside the city centre with lots of outdoor space or finding an apartment surrounded by nightlife in another nearby town,” says Conchita van der Sande, Project Manager for IN Amsterdam.

The Amsterdam Area has an excellent public transport network which means that people working in the one area can live in a different location and still easily travel to work each morning.

How it works

MapItOut asks users to enter a location they regularly travel to (such as their office), how many minutes they’re willing to travel and their chosen transport mode, such as cycling or public transport. It will then draw a catchment area.

The example below assumes the resident works at Asterweg 22 in Amsterdam and they’re willing to travel 45 minutes using public transport. The red area highlights all the locations in the Amsterdam Area where they could live:

Amsterdam MapItOut tool example

For many families, schools are a key point of interest. The MapItOut tool allows you to add schools to the map, so residents with families can also easily visualise which areas would be best to relocate to.

In the example below you can see that it’s possible to live within 45 minutes of Asterweg and access an international secondary school:

Amsterdam MapItOut tool example

Many families may need to select a home that is within reach of both partners’ work locations. For this, users can enter more than one office location and see where’s reachable for both partners.

The example below shows where’s reachable if one partner worked in Amstelveen and wanted a maximum commute of 45 minutes by public transport (red), whilst the other worked in Haarlem but was looking to commute only 30 minutes by public transport and bike (yellow):

Amsterdam MapItOut tool public transport and cycling

The app also allows users to highlight the area where both shapes overlap:

isochrones in Amsterdam

 Why use the TravelTimeAPI?

“With the TravelTimeAPI, we can help residents find the most suitable places to live. This includes areas they may not otherwise have considered, but are in fact within a great commute time."

- Conchita van der Sande, Project Manager, IN Amsterdam

The MapItOut tool uses the TravelTime API to show users where’s reachable within a time limit. A major benefit of using the API is the ability to visualise catchment areas using public transport.  But it was necessary to tailor this to the unique travel habits of the Amsterdam region.

Two custom transport modes were added to the TravelTime API to take into account the uniqueness of Amsterdam’s travel preferences.

1. Ferry + cycling combined

Several free ferries connect Noord Amsterdam to Amsterdam Centraal. These ferries are commonly used by pedestrians and cyclists. For many cyclists in the Amsterdam Area, ferries are used as part of a cycle route.

Previously, the TravelTime cycling model did not include ferries. This meant that if the API was used to draw a 15-minute cycling catchment area, it would assume the cyclist could not use a ferry. This is an example of what it looked like:

15 minute cycling catchment area

After speaking with the team at the Amsterdam Area, TravelTime made a custom transport mode that combined cycling to the ferry, taking a ferry and then continuing to cycle on the other side. This transformed the shape, creating a much larger catchment area:

15 minute cycling catchment area

2. Public transport & cycling combined

Because cycling is a big part of life in the Netherlands, it was important for TravelTime to create a custom mode for the Amsterdam Area to allow for people to cycle part of their route and take a train the rest of the way.

Selecting the public transport + cycling option increases the catchment area. That’s because travellers can cover more ground by bike and access more public transport. Here’s a comparison of combining cycling and public transport (red) vs. only using public transport (yellow):

Amsterdam MapItOut tool example

“With the TravelTime API, we can help residents find the most suitable places to live. This includes areas they may not otherwise have considered, but are in fact within a great commute time,” says Conchita.

“Empowering residents to understand local travel times means they can make smarter decisions about where to live.”

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